This article originally appeared on Late-Braking MotoGP.
Poor Lorenzo Dalla Porta, first-time Grand Prix champion, winner of the 2019 Moto3 title. The Italians in the crowd will support him but he is doomed to get lost in the sauce of the Marquez brothers’ dual championships in Moto2 and MotoGP. Someone please just keep papa Julian off camera.
Readers unhappily suffering through The Marquez Era in MotoGP will be doubly put off this week. Little brother Alex Marquez won his first Moto2 title and second championship overall. He is staying in Moto2 for another year, rumored to be waiting for a Pramac Ducati seat to open up for 2021-22. Things appear set for Ducati Corse to declare Danilo Petrucci a failure, Jack Miller a success, and Pecco Bagnaia the eventual successor to Andrea Dovizioso assuming all goes well and the creek don’t rise. This would make Alex and Bagnaia potential Pramac teammates for, say, a season, with one of them getting promoted to the factory team when Dovi retires or gets retired. My money would be on the Italian.
In 2016, Lorenzo was anxious for a win in his final race for Yamaha, wanting to go out on top after a difficult season. Marc Marquez wanted to cap off his third premier class title with an exclamation point, as well as to avoid an awkward podium celebration. Jorge ended up winning the race, Marquez secured the title in P2, and the podium celebration was awkward; the Spanish national anthem blaring in the background, Lorenzo over-celebrating and Marquez looking somewhat abashed, as if he, the 2017 world champion, were crashing Lorenzo’s party, along with Andrea Iannone who was, in fact, crashing Lorenzo’s party.
Two years ago, we had been chanting the mantra, “Let Valencia Decide” since March. With the title unsettled heading into the November weekend, the opportunity for a riveting finale existed (if only mathematically), as Marquez held a 21-point lead over Ducati pilot Dovizioso as the riders lined up on the grid. The math caught up with Dovi on Lap 25 when, desperate to get past insubordinate teammate Lorenzo, he ran hot into Turn 8, ultimately laying his GP17 down gently in the gravel. And so the 2017 championship, having been essentially decided some weeks earlier, concluded, as usual, at Valencia, with Dani Pedrosa, Johann Zarco and Marquez on the podium. Notably, itt was Pedrosa’s last career MotoGP win.
Last year, the MotoGP race was red-flagged after 13 laps when the rain, which had been annoying all day, went all Bubba Gump mid-race, forcing a re-start featuring 16 riders and 14 laps. By that time, both Espargaros, Jack Miller, Michele Pirro, Petrucci, Tom Luthi and Marquez were already down; only Pol Espargaro and Pirro were allowed to re-enter the race and started the second go.
Dovizioso, Alex Rins and Valentino Rossi quickly re-established a lead group after Maverick Viñales, who had been solid in the first race, crashed on the opening lap. The magic of a decade ago once again failed to materialize for The Doctor as he crashed off the podium for the second round in a row. At that point, it was clear sailing for Dovizioso. Rins found himself on the second step, and Pol Espargaro, coming emotionally unglued, stood on a MotoGP podium for the first time (and the first time for anyone in KTM colors). Probably the best outcome one could have hoped for on a wet, gray postscript of an afternoon. Half price on all MotoGP gear in the concession tents afterwards.
Dorna CEO Carmelo Ezpeleta to Lorenzo: Fish or cut bait. Fascinating article claiming your boy Carmelo delivered some advice, via the interwebs, to my boy Jorge. As if these issues don’t consume El Gato every waking hour, as he wallows in his season of existential disaster, worse by far than his first year with Ducati, which was a dumpster fire itself. World championships in 2010, 2012 and 2015. The experience at Ducati reminded him he’s human. The experience at Honda reminds him that he makes a living at 220 mph and that one more unexpected bad moment could end his life.
I would like to see Jorge retire for health reasons. Dorna, in the person of Ezpeleta, apparently agrees. Lorenzo is, at this stage, bad for the Repsol brand, bad for the MotoGP brand, bad even for the Lorenzo brand, and these guys are brand managers first and foremost. Honda could slot Zarco or Stefan Bradl on a one-year deal and see how it goes, line up an Alien for 2021-22.
Just in order to avoid being accused of forgetting this milestone altogether, I should acknowledge #93 having set the all-time single season points record in MotoGP at Sepang. Captain America is now Captain Earth.
Iker “Hakuna Matata” Lecuona will step on up this week in MotoGP for KTM, taking the seat of his injured future teammate Miguel Oliveira. This should be a valuable learning experience for the Spanish teen. Recall our chestnut that good judgment comes from experience, and experience comes from bad judgment. I expect that we’ll see young Iker on the deck a few times this weekend at his home crib. The RC16 is more bike than he’s used to.
Johann Zarco, Jonas Folger, Bradley Smith – lost souls currently on the refuse pile of MotoGP. Growing up, they were all among the best young riders in their entire respective countries, and they can’t make a decent living in the big leagues. We assume it goes on even more in Moto2 and, especially, Moto3, for the riders and teams living at the bottom of the food chain. Comparable to the alphabet soup days in MotoGP, with ART and CRT works lucky to finish on the lead lap on Sundays, teams being asked to hold their paychecks. Stuff you don’t normally think about watching them go ’round and round.
Apropos of nothing, the nomadic lifestyle of the families of young riders coming up in AMA Flat Track would make a nice Mark Neale film. Living in big RVs, humping from Arizona to California to Illinois, hoping to win enough at each race to pay for gas and food. Hoping Junior doesn’t get hurt. Mom and dad, siblings, lots of racing gear, the bike, on and on. Looking at the world through a windshield, the Commander Cody and His Lost Planet Airmen version. Entire families making huge sacrifices hoping their boy is the next Nicky Hayden. Probably hasn’t changed that much in 30 years.
The weather forecast for the weekend calls for cold temps and bright skies. Perfect for raking leaves, not so great for racing, with morning lows dipping into the 40s. The MotoGP grid, remaining more or less intact for next year – unless something dramatic happens at Repsol Honda – has very little to race for this round. Lecuona will want to make a good first impression. Viñales and Rins may have a thing about who finishes third. Fabio Quartararo, Petrucci and Rossi will argue about fifth place, Danilo fighting for his professional life at this point. And Fabio needs a win in the worst way. I’m just not sure this is the right track, in the right conditions.
As usual with Moto2 and Moto3, I have no idea who will appear on the podium, since I rarely do and a meaningless season finale is more unpredictable than other rounds. With Alex Marquez and Lorenzo Dalla Porta having nothing but their pride on the line, Valencia appears to be a good place for some ambitious young riders to try to get in the lead group and make some noise while most folks are looking ahead to 2020.
We will be here on Sunday for the wrap. Thanks for your unyielding patience putting up with this drivel. This late in the season, it’s all we got.